31 Days of Sticky Teaching: Gap Theory

Gap Theory has nothing to do with shopping or the mall or a certain clothing store frequented by teenagers. Nope, Gap Theory is that curiosity that creeps up on us when we notice a gap in our knowledge. That little knowledge gap can act like an itch. It doesn’t bother us overmuch, but it keeps at us. It sort of nags us a little bit. And the only way to make that itch go away is to scratch it with some knowledge that helps us to fill the gap.
Scientists tell us that this is why we are willing to finish poorly written novels and movies. Even though we “know” how it will end (poorly written novels and movies are always utterly predictable), we have to know for sure – and so we hang in there to the very end.
So how does Gap Theory help me make my teaching stickier? (see, I just created a gap for you – sneaky eh?) Well, first we open a gap. We pose a question that makes the learner aware of a knowledge gap – sort of like I just did with my rhetorical question at the beginning of this paragraph. Once the gap is realized, the itching begins. And the only way to stop the itch is to fill the knowledge gap.

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